Covington’s leaders are tired of problems with fireworks, so they’re working on banning them within the city limits.
Passed Tuesday on its first of three readings, a new ordinance will prohibit both the sale and discharge of fireworks.
“It’s been a hot-button issue,” mayor Justin Hanson said.
At the end of June, a house on South High Street was heavily damaged by a fire investigators believe was caused by fireworks. A single mother lived in the home with her three children, but they were not home at the time.
In 2018, former alderman John Edwards’ family home on West Ripley was also heavily damaged by teenagers shooting fireworks.
Hanson cites these incidents, as well as body cam footage of fireworks being shot at police officers this year, as the major reasons for the proposed ban.
“We have a real concern after this year’s fireworks season and this was the next logical step.”
During July’s meeting of the Finance & Administration Committee, C.H. Sullivan said, “It’s a shame to have to do it, but it’s time to do it.”
Fire chief Richard Griggs said the June fire caused $80,000 in property damage and over the course of the fireworks season there were four major injuries.
Fireworks banned in 1876
On Dec. 23, 1876 Covington mayor S.R. Shelton signed Ordinance 18, which prohibited “the firing of sky rockets, Roman candles, fire crackers, turpentine balls or other pyrotechnics” within the corporate limits. Violators were arrested and brought before the mayor for trial. If found guilty, violators faced a $2-$5 fine.
It is not immediately known when fireworks were once again permitted.
Special thanks to Sherri Onorati with the Tipton County Museum for this historical data.
Reports from the August 2020 Public Safety Committee show seven people were arrested in June and July for shooting fireworks at police officers and other fireworks-related incidents.
Nine reports were filed for vandalism, aggravated assault and arson.
“Any step the city can make towards making things safer for citizens is better,” Griggs said.
Where fireworks sales are permitted, state law allows for fireworks stands to operate for two weeks prior to the days in which fireworks can be discharged.
This typically means fireworks are being discharged in neighborhoods during the entirety of that period. This year, however, saw an unusually high number of fireworks all over the country.
“It’s something I spent two weeks on the phone with,” Hanson said. “This year more than normal due to the circumstances of 2020.”
COVID-19 precautions meant more people stayed home, instead of traveling, for the Fourth of July and more fireworks going off when they aren’t usually.
Atoka Mayor Daryl Walker, who owns and operates a fireworks stand, agreed it was a busier year than normal.
“People really wanted to use fireworks to take it out on,” he said in his town’s meeting Tuesday.
“And they took it out on my dog,” Persia Phelps responded. “My dog was hit with one.”
Phelps and other Atoka residents, like Carl Cherry and Larry Kyle, want Atoka to adopt ordinances to help regulate the discharge of fireworks as well due to the noise and trash.
Covington is the only city where a ban is being discussed.
If passed, the ordinance will allow fireworks to be discharged during special events, such as First Baptist Church’s annual event and during Covington High School’s home games.
The next reading will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Citizens who wish to comment on the matter can do so in person, via the Facebook Live stream or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.